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Do you need to be Gluten Free?

Mon, Jul. 21, 2014 Posted: 08:57 AM

Concern over gluten intolerance is increasing in direct proportion to the growing promotion of whole grains. As a result, people are often confused regarding the role grains should play in a healthy diet.

Creative advertising about cereals and breads containing whole grains often bombards us. The result is that along the way, the true story of grains - both good and bad - gets lost in a barrage of sensationalized hype.

While The Hallelujah Diet includes limited use of grains, is a gluten free diet beneficial or even necessary? And if there are benefits to including whole grains, what are the options for people who are gluten intolerant?

Gluten is a major protein of wheat and to a lesser degree of barley, rye, and oats. It is composed of gliadins and glutenins, with only the gliadins demonstrated to activate celiac disease.

Gluten stimulates the production of certain antibodies, which can damage the lining of the small intestine and leads to the flattening of the villi (tiny finger like projections that extend outward from the inner lining of the small intestines). Villi significantly increase the surface area of the small intestine lining, and play an important role in the absorption of digestive products.

When the villi are flattened, damaged, or destroyed by the reaction to gluten, the absorptive surface of the small intestine is reduced, and some nutrients fail to be absorbed. Malabsorption may lead to diarrhea, weight loss, weakness, vitamin deficiency, anemia, and demineralization of the bones.

Symptoms of gluten intolerance vary dramatically and may include excessive weight loss associated with malnutrition, diarrhea, nutrient deficiencies, and skin rashes. People of Northern European descent are more likely to experience gluten intolerance but a growing number of Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians are being affected. A simple test that works for most people is to simply eliminate gluten from the diet for several days and notice if symptoms subside. Reintroduce gluten into the diet and note if symptoms reappear.

Gluten intolerance typically appears during the first three years of life, after cereals are introduced into the diet. According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine: A second peak occurrence rate takes place during the third decade of life. Breast-feeding appears to have a preventive effect, as breast-fed babies have a decreased risk of developing celiac disease. The early introduction of cow's milk is also believed to be a major causative factor. Research in the past few years has clearly indicated that breast-feeding and delayed consumption of cow's milk and cereal grains are the primary preventive steps that can greatly reduce the risk of developing celiac disease.

If celiac disease is suspected or confirmed, the treatment is a gluten-free diet. Once the gluten is eliminated, significant improvement is usually noted within a few days or weeks by the vast majority of people. Unfortunately, about 10% may not respond for 2 to 3 years of gluten avoidance. For those who have celiac and do not respond within a couple months to the elimination of gluten, they may have an incorrect diagnosis, may be exposed to hidden sources of gluten, or may have complications of celiac such as zinc deficiency.

The only known way of successfully dealing with this condition is to eliminate all sources of gluten from the diet. Wheat, barley, and rye are the big three, and oats to a lesser degree. There are also many hidden sources of gluten you need to be aware of if you suspect gluten intolerance. (Note that it is the grain of these cereals that are the carrier of the gluten not the young grass leaves.)

Gluten free foods can easily be cross contaminated by foods that contain gluten. For example, if a family eats whole wheat products, the member who is trying to eliminate gluten can toast a piece of gluten-free bread in the same toaster that has been used to toast wheat bread and pick up crumbs from the wheat bread. If you use one knife to spread almond butter on a piece of wheat toast and then dip it back into the jar to spread the almond butter on the gluten free toast, you may transport gluten from the wheat toast into the almond butter and eventually onto the gluten-free toast.

Non-food items such as the glue on lickable envelopes and stamps may contain gluten. Personal care items such as lipstick, toothpaste, and mouthwash may contain gluten. Medication may also contain gluten. For a broader list of possible sources of gluten exposure you may want to review the information at Roll your mouse over the ''About Celiac Disease" tab, then click "Hidden Sources of Gluten."

While current figures indicate about 1 person out of 133 deals with gluten intolerance, what about the 132 who do not? Are grains a good component of a healthy diet? The short answer is that, in moderation, most whole grains are fine to consume. We need to keep in mind that most grains require cooking to some extent prior to consuming them and that most leave an acid ash in the body. We want to maintain a diet that is about 80% alkaline-forming and 20% acid-forming - thus limited use of acid-forming foods is fine for those who are not sensitive to gluten.

When using grains, we want to avoid processed grains and emphasize whole grains. The difference between the two is quite extreme. The refining process of grains involves the removal of the bran and germ, bleaching and then adding back some nutrients in an effort to replace some of the nutrients lost in processing so they can be sold as "enriched."

Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber as well as a wide range of vitamins and minerals. The nutrient make up varies significantly from one grain to another, so a good variety of grains is best. The impact on the body’s pH varies as well from one grain to another with wheat and white rice being the most acid-forming while brown rice and barley are less acid-forming. Quinoa, millet and amaranth are all alkaline-forming. Acid-forming grains will become alkaline when sprouted.

According to Joel Fuhrman, MD:

Soaking whole grains, such as brown rice, buckwheat, millet, and quinoa, for a day before cooking them greatly increases their nutritional value. Certain phytonutrients and vitamins are activated as the grain starts to germinate. These include powerful chemo preventative phenols that inhibit the growth of abnormal cells. A 24-hour soak induces the early stage of germination, but you will not see the sprouts. Soaking also shortens the cooking time.

Whole grains have less of a glycemic impact on the blood than refined grains, invoking less of an insulin response. And remember to avoid any genetically modified grains by using organic as much as possible.

Author Jon Barron calls barley the “King of Grains:”

It's high in beta-glucan; it's one of the least acidic grains; and it's one of the lowest of all foods on the glycemic index. When consumed in its sprouted, pre-sprouted, or cereal grass forms, it's a monster of nutrition.

Certainly there are those who advocate a no-grain diet and enjoy a high level of health. However, when used in moderation and in conjunction with a diet that is rich in raw fruits and vegetables including large amounts of leafy greens, grains can provide a significant health benefit.

Incidentally, the Hallelujah Diet BarleyMax is a pure juice product providing the many benefits of barley grass but does not contain any of the grain. It has been laboratory tested as gluten–free.

Hallelujah Diet